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Ready to Build or Renovate

July 14, 2008 Article 3 min read

Five often-overlooked considerations for owners

It’s no secret that when it comes to planning and managing a construction project, a district’s responsibilities extend far beyond just hiring the architect and construction manager. Consider the following responsibilities. 

Strategic Project Planning

Entering into the construction process with a solid strategy is critical. How do your facilities relate to your educational objectives? How will your district grow and change? Where should your facilities be located to best accommodate students and the community? Oftentimes, districts give significant consideration to curriculum concerns but overlook how facilities can support the curriculum in the most cost effective manner. For example, if you have multiple high schools, do they each need their own performing arts center, or is it possible to have a regional facility? Districts that are consolidating buildings will want to evaluate which buildings are the most cost effective to operate and/or what pieces of property are most valuable and leverage those opportunities accordingly. It’s a lot to consider. 

Establishing a Budget and Schedule

Costing out a project is essential, as many projects tend to go 10–20 percent over budget. What are your needs versus things that would be nice to have? It’s also important to devise an appropriate timeline and determine how much space your staff, students, and community will need. In addition, be prepared to address site challenges such as access to utilities, geotechnical considerations, and environmental concerns. 

Selecting a Project Delivery Method

There are many different project delivery methods, from the traditional design-bid-build to multiple construction management models. Keep in mind that there are many variations within these categories. For example, if you decided to use the “construction-manager-as-advisor” method, you—the owner—hold all the contracts with the subcontractors. Many times, organizations don’t understand the various roles and responsibilities related to the various methods, and it’s easy to get drawn into the wrong one, taking on unnecessary exposure and liability in the process. 

Selecting the Team

This involves choosing the right architect, general contractor, and construction manager (if necessary) for the project. When it comes to selecting the best fit, remember—you don’t need a heart surgeon to remove a mole. Make sure you choose the right architect and contractor for your budget and select a builder that specializes in building to that price point. 

Navigating the Construction Process/Change Order Management

Once construction is underway, it’s important to constantly monitor the key aspects of construction. These include scheduling of materials and long lead items, and coordination of sub-consultants. Additionally, at some point in the process, the construction manager will likely come to you and say, “We need to do x, and it’s going to cost you y.” Are you prepared to negotiate these change orders? 

And That’s Just the Beginning!

As you can see, these are just five of several responsibilities incumbent upon the owner. Projects are increasingly becoming more complex, and many owners simply don’t have the staff expertise to handle that complexity. Enter the owner representative.

Interestingly, entrusting the construction process to an owner representative is nothing new. For years, Fortune 500 companies have had their own internal real estate departments, freeing up management to focus on what they do best—running their organizations.

An owner representative is your advocate and exists solely to represent you and your interests. They can coordinate your construction process, from planning through post-construction, providing the talent to assure the job is done correctly, on time, and on budget. As they have no conflicts of interest, owner representatives can recruit and coordinate multiple architects and construction managers, if necessary, to make sure your project benefits from the top talent available at multiple firms. This reduces time and improves quality—at the same cost.

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